Book Review: The Upanishads

The Upanishads are some of the most fascinating writings in world literature. They are a record of several hundred years of experience and wisdom in one of the world’s great mystical traditions. As such, they act as a powerful witness to the universality of the desire for eternity and transcendence, for the innate humanity of the longing for God.

This translation is an interesting one and may be useful for someone who is new to the Upanishads. Nearly all of the technical language is trimmed out and the universal aspects are emphasized, rather than those elements that are unique to the Hindu tradition. The great fault of this book, however, is that it seems to try too hard in many places to emphasis that universality. Rather than allowing the universality of the Upanishads to shine through on their own, the translation often seeks to imitate biblical language, more familiar to Western readers, and the commentaries focus more on making the Upanishads acceptable to a Judeo-Christian audience than on actually explaining the historical and cultural milieu of the Upanishads themselves. If it were not for this flaw, or if I were rating just the Upanishads alone and not the translation and commentary, I would rate this volume much higher.

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